AgTech Precision Agriculture Sustainability

PheroSyn Awarded Grant to Develop Supply of Novel Fruit Pest Pheromones

PheroSyn, the company spun-out from Rothamsted Research to develop and produce novel pest pheromones, has secured an Innovate UK smart grant for a project to validate new high-value pheromones, and to scale-up their production and distribution. The £0.5 million project is a 36-month collaboration with Rothamsted Research, the globally acclaimed agricultural research institute, and Andermatt Biocontrol UK, the leading supplier for biological-based plant protection and pheromone products to farmers and growers.

Midges are significant global pests of fruit production. Current management of midges usually involves the application of fossil-fuel based chemical pesticides that impact negatively on beneficial insects and the wider environment. PheroSyn’s approach is part of a global trend to move away from reliance on chemical pesticides in favour of pheromone-based integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.

PheroSyn will work with Rothamsted Research and Andermatt to develop sex pheromone systems to trap the pear gall midges and the pear leaf midge, and secure three years’ field trial validation to demonstrate their efficacy. Importantly, the project also includes end-user validation, and the establishment of a supply chain for R&D, manufacture and distribution of the products to farmers and growers.

Pheromones form a critical component of IPM, but compared with other crop pests, there are currently very few fruit midge pheromones available. This project will build on recent technological advances at PheroSyn and Rothamsted Research. The partners will develop green-chemistry based production routes for commercial scale production of the pheromones using renewable feedstocks. Efficacy of the pheromone products in trapping and monitoring midge populations in fruit production systems will be confirmed by Andermatt.

Availability of the pheromones for use in the IPM of fruit pests will provide significant social and economic benefit to the UK by producing affordable, safe-to-eat food, and it promotes zero-carbon agriculture through reduced use of chemical pesticides. The new pheromones are planned to become available for use in climate-smart IPM fruit production systems from 2023.

“We are excited to be working on this IUK-supported project targeting the management of destructive pear gall midge and pear leaf midges”, said Daniel Bahia, Business Manager at PheroSyn. “By collaborating with Rothamsted Research and Andermatt, we have established the production and supply chain for the pheromones at an early stage, enabling us to get them into the market at the fastest possible rate.”

“This is really great news for Rothamsted to see its public-funded crop protection research being turned into benefits for food producers and the general public”, said Dr Mike Birkett, Principal Research Scientist in Protecting Crops and the Environment at Rothamsted Research. “It highlights our commitment to developing pheromone-based solutions with the potential to improve overall productivity, sustainability and resilience in food production systems, and move the existing horticultural sector to net zero.”

“This is an exciting project to help develop biological technologies and decision supporting tools to support UK pear growers. We are looking forward to the collaboration with PheroSyn and Rothamsted Research, and linking laboratory research with field evaluations”, said Dr Andrew Brown, Managing Director of Andermatt Biocontrol UK.

About PheroSyn

PheroSyn is a spin-out from Rothamsted Research, and comprises a world-leading team of scientists with over 40 years’ collective experience of researching and developing insect pheromone baits. It was founded on 2020 by Daniel Bahia, Business Manager at PheroSyn, Dr Mike Birkett, Principal Chemical Ecologist, Dr John Caulfield and Dr David Withall, Research Scientists at Rothamsted Research.

PheroSyn benefits from being part of the SHAKE Climate Change programme, the consortium of leading scientific research and academic institutions formed to identify innovative solutions to tackle climate change linked to the agri-food sector.

PheroSyn supports the farming community as the basis of a sustainable and socially responsible sector.

About Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture and, through independent science and innovation, we continue to make significant contributions to improving the sustainability of agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. Our strength lies in our gene to field approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships. Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources, open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform. We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT). 

About Andermatt Biocontrol UK

Healthy food and healthy environment, for all! The Andermatt Group are recognised as being a global leader in manufacturing biological control products. Established in 2017, Andermatt UK is a subsidiary of Swiss based Andermatt Biocontrol AG. Andermatt UK brings a range of Andermatt Biocontrol Group and third-party biological products to the UK horticulture, agriculture, Home & Garden and beekeeping markets. Led by Managing Director Dr. Andrew Brown, Andermatt UK offers market leading technical support for understanding how to integrate its technologies into UK growing systems.

About UKRI

Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. It connects businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth.

UKRI funds businesses and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions.

Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation.